For Kristie Ahn, Kind Words From Deep in Her Past




Kristie Ahn waited 11 years between her first United States Open singles look and her subsequent one, which began the ultimate week with three victories.

“My life has come full circle, and I feel like I can finally put the 2008 U.S. Open to rest,” acknowledged Ahn, 27, whose occasion ended with a loss to the 25th-seeded Elise Mertens, 6-1, 6-1, in a fourth-round match on Monday. Mertens will face Bianca Andreescu in the quarterfinals.

Ahn’s journey has included a sudden kinship with Dinara Safina, the now-retired Russian participant who beat Ahn, 6-3, 6-4, in the opening spherical in 2008.

As Ahn has progressed through the occasion, Safina, 33, has despatched phrases of encouragement to her on social media and in personal messages between the 2.

Seeded sixth in the 2008 U.S. Open, Safina was in the midst of an ascent that may take her to the No. 1 score the next spring. Before the Open that 12 months, she had reached the last word of the French Open, acquired titles in Los Angeles and Montreal, and claimed a silver medal in the Beijing Olympics.

In a cellphone interview Monday from her home in Monaco, Safina acknowledged her win over Ahn, then 16, had been “just another match.”

“I remember coming to the U.S. Open I was very tired, so for me, I was just focusing on myself,” acknowledged Safina, who made the semifinals, the place she misplaced to the eventual champion, Serena Williams. “I was really not thinking of who was on the other side.”

“I remember that I played against her, and it was two sets,” Safina added. “I came in playing really solid, and I was in my best shape. I played a really good match. Honestly, I don’t think I gave her any chances to win. But I remember everyone I played, especially if it’s a qualifier or wild card. I always remember.”

Years later Safina was educating one different participant, Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine, at a small occasion in Dothan, Ala., and he or she seen Ahn.

“When I saw her there, I was like: ‘Oh my God, I played against you! Remember?’ And she couldn’t believe I remembered her,” Safina acknowledged. “I was like, ‘Of course I remember you — how can I not remember you?’ And since then — thank God for Instagram — I’m following her and her results. I’m really happy for her that finally she’s breaking through and doing great.”

Forced out of the game by once more points, Safina carried out her closing match in 2011 and formally retired in 2014. She needs to return to the tour as a coach, she acknowledged, nonetheless, for now, has been giving a suggestion to Ahn from afar.

“She was like, ‘Put your head down, you’ve got to believe you can do it,’” Ahn acknowledged. “It’s so inspiring. Not that you expect people to be selfish post-tennis, but I didn’t know her; that’s as much as our overlap went. To see how supportive she’s been of me recently — wow, that’s so amazing.”

Safina acknowledged the precept distinction between avid gamers of her caliber and other people like Ahn, who’ve struggled exterior the very best 100, is confidence.

“The only difference between those players in challengers and the ones who make it on tour is we believe much more in ourselves, that’s the thing,” Safina acknowledged. “I told her to believe more in herself. They all have the game, but I don’t know why they think they’re not good enough. No, it’s not that! What is not good enough is their mentality.”

After eliminating “the looming skeleton in my closet” and gaining her first win in a Grand Slam occasion, Ahn acknowledged she had seen a increasingly more supportive custom on tour — one which she credited to proper this second’s avid gamers however moreover to retired professionals like Safina.

“It’s been amazing,” Ahn acknowledged. “You feel like it’s a community.”




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